Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: BlackJack’sBriefs
On this day, in 1960, reigning World Champion Jack Brabham, after a dreadful start to the season, won the French GP and went on to win a second consecutive championship, at the wheel of a Cooper Climax T53. Brabham had retired in Argentina with gearbox failure and been disqualified in Monaco after he spun out and was push-started, but he then won the following five races on the trot, missed Italy after a childish fiasco, and finished fourth in the final race in America – which also suffered from a similarly unfortunate ‘incident’…
Jack Brabham had started racing dirt-track ‘midgets’ in Australia in the late 40’s, and was regarded as Australia’s best driver before he sold his business
interests and arrived in Europe, with introductions to Maserati, Ferrari and Mercedes, none of which came to anything and he found himself hanging around the Cooper Car Co. until John Cooper gave him a chance. “He didn’t so much start working for us as just start working with us. He just began coming in more often and we got used to having him around. He acted as a kind of fitter-cum- welder-cum-driver and he was bloody good at all of it.” As a result of his dirt-track background Brabham’s driving style was described as: ‘Bags of throttle and full opposite lock’… which remained visible throughout his career.
During 1960 Brabham became frustrated with the Cooper design conservatism and decided he needed to go it alone, but he stayed for one more year, and in 1961 retired from six of the eight races and finished a lowly eleventh in the championship…
Below is a short clip of Jack Brabham winnning the 1960 British GP.
And here a clip of Brabham at Zandvoort (in 1959) showing his ‘full opposite lock’ style. Check at 3m. 33s.
Meanwhile, and this is where the story really starts . . . another Australian engineer, Ron Tauranac, had arrived in Britain and set up shop manufacturing ‘bolt-on’ tuning goodies for British saloon cars before forming Motor Racing Developments, to make customer Formula Junior cars, and had immediate success… perhaps no racing-car manufacturer, with little apparent racing background, has ever been so instantly successful… and nobody seemed to know where Tauranac and MRD had come from… although journalist Jabby Crombac pointed out that “The way a Frenchman pronounces those initials (written phonetically: ‘em air day‘) sounded perilously like the French word… merde.”
During 1961, while still driving a works Cooper, Brabham had been entering his own private Cooper in non-championship events and by the end of the year he was working with his secret partner, Ron, on an F1 car, MRD having been deliberately named without using either man’s name and, by 1962, there was a new company in the F1 circus: the Brabham Racing Organisation… the cars now known as Brabhams, the type numbers prefixed with BT for ‘Brabham-Tauranac’
Their first season was best forgotten but in 1963 Brabham took the company’s first win in the non-championship Solitude GP, and Dan Gurney scored their first championship GP wins in France and Mexico in 1964. Brabham was also either third or fourth in the Constructors Championship for three years running – 1963-65…
And so . . . On This Day, in 1966 . . . when the regulations had changed from 1.5L engines to 3.0L and, with another engine shortage (as in 1961), Jack Brabham won again in France (his first GP win since 1960), having talked the Australian Repco company into financing an engine based on a V8 aluminium block, from Oldsmobile…
Brabham’s victory in France was the first time a driver won a World Championship event in a car of his own construction, a feat that has since only been equalled by Brabham’s ex-Cooper team-mate, Bruce McLaren and his ex-Brabham team-mate, Dan Gurney, in his Eagle.
As in 1960 Brabham had four consecutive victories to take him to his third World Drivers Championship – the only time a driver has won the Championship in a car of his own construction. Brabham also won the 1966 Constructors Championship… in both championships scoring nearly 50% more points than the runners-up.
Ian Lees, Brabham mechanic, 1966-69: “It was very small by today’s standards. You were looking at, including drivers, probably nine people involved in running the whole team. And Jack would get stuck in and help everyone out to make sure we got there on time.”
Prior to the 1966 Dutch Grand Prix, his first race after his 40th birthday, “Geriatric Jack” jokingly hobbled onto the starting grid at Zandvoort wearing a long false beard and leaning on a jack- handle as a walking stick – the media and younger rivals had been ‘having a go’ about his age – but he showed them what’s what… and continued to race for a further four years.
In 1967 Brabham came close to a fourth championship, just being pipped by his team-mate, Denny Hulme, their only real competition coming from Jim Clark, and Brabham took the Constructors Championship for the second time. For 1968 Hulme joined fellow Kiwi, McLaren, and was replaced by Jochen Rindt but it was a disastrous year of retirements for both drivers.
In 1969 Rindt moved to Lotus and Brabham took on the new ‘whiz- kid’, Jackie Ickx, who had two wins and was placed second in the Championship to Stewart’s Matra, while Brabham scored second place in the Constructors Championship.
Brabham now finally decided to hang up his helmet and sold his interests in Brabham and MRD to Ron Tauranac but a ‘driver shortage’ for 1970, when Ickx returned to Ferrari, and Rindt changed his mind and stayed with Lotus, caused him to do one more year, with ‘pay-drive’ newcomer, Rolf Stommelen as team-mate. It was not a great year.
Despite Jack Brabham winning the opening race, and being competitive throughout, mechanical problems spoiled his final year and sixth place in the Championship didn’t satisfy him. “I wasn’t giving up racing because I couldn’t do the job. I felt just as competive as at any other time, and I should have won the Championship in 1970 . . . but sometimes family pressures don’t allow you to make the decisions you’d like to.” He returned to Australia, to his farm having created quite a legacy…
F1 Drivers’ Champion: 1959, 1960 & 1966;
F1 Constructors’ Champion: 1966 and 1967;
Only driver in Formula One history to win the championship in a car of his own construction;
Contested 126 Grand Prix from 1955 to 1970; Fourteen Grand Prix wins; Thirteen Grand Prix Pole positions; Four times European F2 Champion;
First team to use a wind-tunnel, 20 years beforee it became the norm;
British Saloon Car Champion: 1965;
Australian of the Year: 1966;
Awarded Order of the British Empire in 1976;
The first racing driver to be Knighted for services to motor sport, in 1979;
At 86, is the oldest surviving World Champion…
In the 60‘s MRD sold nearly 600 customer cars, for F1, F2, F3, FJ, FF, Indy and others – more than any other constructor;
Postscript from BlackJackFan . . . as a kid, back in 1960, without saying anything to my mother, who would have hit the roof, I ran away from home to join the circus… That is to say, I hopped on a bus to Brands Hatch, for what I think must have been the Silver City Trophy, a non-championship F1 race. I can just about recall the bus conductor looking askance when I mumbled: “One child’s ticket to Brands Hatch… please…”
Actually it wasn’t the race itself – the race day was too expensive and I could hardly ask my mother for an advance of my pocket-money – and I turned up for the Saturday practice. I can’t remember what the entrance fee was… it might have even been free… but entry to the circuit gave access to everywhere but the pits.
All the grandstands were free and the paddock (on the outside of the track, and linked to the pits by a narrow, one-way tunnel) was also completely open – as I remember it there wasn’t even a proper fence around it. There were no motor-homes that I recall and the drivers sat around on the car wheels, drinking coffee and chatting about what tweaks they might try.
At the time I thought the new Cooper was the most beautiful, and desirable object on the planet and I couldn’t stop staring at it… until Jack Brabham (my hero since the previous year) actually called me and jokingly asked if I would like to try it. I was unable to speak, so he called me over to where he was sitting with his son Geoff (I think) and offered me a Coke.
Walking about three inches above ground level I joined them and, although I didn’t realise at the time, it was as if I had died and gone to heaven. What a shame such things have long since been impossible.
While I’m at it (and then I promise I’ll give up this trundle down Memory Lane) I spotted Lucien Bianchi slowly rolling his Cooper T51 towards me and I tried to get the sort of shot the motor-sport photographers never got – the nose of the car coming straight towards camera – primarilly because they’re not daft enough to stand where I was… I knelt down in the grass (yes, grass…!), aimed the camera, and waited as the Cooper’s nose slowly closed on me but just as I was about to take the picture the car came to a halt.
I looked up to see the car had stopped about one foot from me. In the car, Bianchi was grinning at me and politely waiting for me to take my picture… which I did and then quickly got out of his way. I don’t remember if I was able to find my tongue to thank him. As far as I can recall the only person I dared to speak to all day was the bus-conductor.
David Piper then appeared out of the tunnel after his practice session, in his Lotus 16, and parked nearby and I was astonished by the size of the front brake discs… and that the face of the disc seemed to be a series of concentric circles, as if scored by the brake pad.
For some reason I wanted to know if the pads had actually cut into the disc and so I ran a finger nail across them, looking for ridges… I don’t know if there were any because I think my finger-nail melted onto the disc, before I could snatch my hand away…
Piper was out of the car and staring at me as if I was nuts, although there seemed to be genuine concern on his face that I might have been injured. I grinned inanely, thrust my hand in my pocket – ‘No Sir, not me, Sir…’ – and nonchalantly strolled off to the bus-stop… where I think I might have let out a low howl, like a wounded wildebeest…
Jim Clark was on pole but the race was won by Jack Brabham, who led all fifty laps, both he and Clark sharing the fastest lap. Clark also won the Formula Junior race on the same day… David Piper collided with Roy Salvadori… I’ve always wondered whether I had somehow affected his brakes…